1) Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project (Criterion) is a pretty amazing grab-bag of mainly Third World near classics. The restorations include Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty’s 1973 debut feature, the ultra New Wave, quasi New Left, sort of “Bonnie and Clyde” story “Touki Bouki” (see above); the great underappreciated Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak’s penultimate feature, the tragic, epic melodrama “A River Called Titus” (1973); “The Housemaid” (1960), a ferociously Buñuelian morality play by Kim Ki-Young, the director some regard as South Korea’s Sam Fuller; and, pure pleasure, the Moroccan music doc “Trances” (1981), directed by Ahmed El Maânouni and “discovered” by Susan Sontag who steered it into the 1982 New York Film Festival. There’s also the Turkish classic “Dry Summer” (1964), which I look forward to seeing and, a bit of an anomaly, “Redes” (a/k/a “The Wave,” 1936), the Pop Front pre-Neo Realist documentary fiction, financed by the Mexican government, shot by Paul Strand, and co-directed by Fred Zinneman and Emilio Gómez Muriel.
4) For those internationalist who prefer their movies silent, I recommend French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris, 1923-1928 (Flicker Alley), a set featuring three films starring the greatest of White Russian stars Ivan Mosjoukine, “The Burning Crucible” (1923) in which, fueled by immigrant energy, Mosjoukine plays 11 parts (he also wrote and directed), Alexandre Volkoff’s “Kean” (1924) and Marcel L’Herbier’s Pirandello adaptation “The Late Mathias Pascal” (1926). The other two films “Gribiche” (1926) and “The New Gentlemen” (1928), both comedies directed by Jacques Feyder, were produced by émigré mogul Alexandre Kamenka. There are more where these came from, notably Mosjoukine’s spectacular French swansong “The White Devil,” leading me to believe that a sequel may be in the offing.
3) The season’s must read (months if not years from paperback): Noah Isenberg’s long-awaited biography “Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins” (University of California Press). Ulmer—whose CV includes “People on Sunday,” “The Black Cat,” “Detour,” four Yiddish talkies, a half dozen bargain basement classics and as many indescribable oddities—had a life that was every bit as interesting as his film. The writing is scholarly but, given the material, charged with irony and full of pep.
And speaking of great unclassifiable filmmakers, I was planning to recommend the catalog for the David Cronenberg show currently up at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto but I’m told, it’s currently sold out. Wait ‘til next year.
Image: The Criterion Collection